Battling islanders of Ria Formosa are preparing for the arrival of bulldozers tomorrow, but it could have been so much worse.
Going this time are 40-odd properties “seized” by State authorities last month that haven’t since won the benefit of court embargoes.
As SOS Ria Formosa campaigner Vanessa Morgado explained, they are almost all buildings that have been abandoned for some time, in poor states of repair – or whose owners have “given up the fight to save them”.
Householders who have fought demolitions all the way are protected by “providências cautelars” (actions lodged through the courts) and “cannot be touched”, she said – which gives islanders time for negotiations due to get underway for the new POC (coastal plan for the area running from Vilamoura to Vila Real de Santo António).
Olhão’s mayor António Pina and Socialist MP Luís Graça have pledged that in the intervening period no demolitions will go ahead (click here).
The POC will be drawn up over a period of 15 months in conjunction with local populations adamant that no further homes should be destroyed.
Morgado, whose campaign group vowed to ‘stand between the machines and houses’ in the event of enforced demolitions, says this is least bad scenario considering the situation only a few weeks ago.
Of 31 properties on Farol nucleus of Culatra island daubed in blue painted numbers by the authorities, four have since been ‘saved’ by court actions, and thus no permanent homes on the western extremity of the island will be lost.
As a result, protests that habitually accompany island demolitions will be absent tomorrow.
“I cannot ask people to put themselves in the middle of machines to save sheds, or the houses of others who have stopped fighting”, Morgado told us.
“These people need rest. We have been fighting for years – and the situation now is a lot better than it used to be.
“Now we have to put our efforts into steering the emphasis of the new POC so that historic human settlements on the barrier islands are not destroyed”.
SOS’ campaign slogan is “requalification YES, naturalisation NO” (meaning, the islands should be upgraded, but not ‘returned to the wild’, as environment agency APA along with Sociedade Polis Litoral have in the past been insisting).
The next few weeks in which demolitions will first go ahead at Farol and then Hangares will be “dark and sad for the island community”, said Morgado – “but there is something that has to be stressed very vehemently: the future cannot see any further interventions of this nature”.
Hopes and trust are pinned on the POC negotiations in which islander associations have all been assured they will have a voice.